Converting Carbon Dioxide To Methanol

November 2, 2021

Converting carbon dioxide to methanol, a potentially renewable alternative fuel, offers the opportunity to simultaneously form an alternative fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Inspired by natural processes, a team of Boston College chemists used a multi-catalyst system to convert carbon dioxide to methanol at the lowest reported temperatures with high activity and selectivity, the researchers reported in a recent online issue of the journal.  Chem .

The team’s discovery was made possible by installing multiple catalysts into a single system built inside a sponge-like porous crystalline material known as a metal-organic framework, said Boston College associate professors of chemistry Jeffery Byers and Frank Tsung, lead authors of the report ..

Held in place by the sponge, the separate catalysts work in harmony. Without isolating the catalytically active species in this way, the reaction did not proceed and no product was obtained, they reported.

The team was inspired by the biological machinery of cells, which use multi-component chemical reactions with great efficiency, Tsung said.

The team employed catalyst separation through host-guest chemistry – where a “guest” molecule is encapsulated in a “host” material to form a new chemical compound – in order to convert carbon dioxide to methanol. The approach, inspired by nature’s multi-component catalytic transformations, turned a greenhouse gas into a renewable fuel, while avoiding high catalytic demand in a single species.

“We achieve this by encapsulating one or more catalysts in a metal-organic framework and applying the host-guest construct resulting in catalysis in tandem with another transition metal complex ,” Tsung said.

The team, which included graduate student Thomas M. Rayder and undergraduate student Enric H. Adillon, set out to determine whether they could develop an approach to integrate incompatible catalysts to convert carbon dioxide to methanol at low temperature and with high selectivity, Byers said.

Specifically, they wanted to find out if this approach has specific advantages compared to current state-of-the-art systems for converting carbon dioxide to methanol from a transition metal complex.

“Placing multi-transition metal complex catalysts in the correct position in a system is critical to turning the reaction around,” Byers said. “At the same time, encapsulating these catalysts allowed for recyclability in the multicomponent catalyst system.”

These properties make building the multi-component catalyst more industrially relevant, which may pave the way for carbon-neutral fuel economy, the researchers said.

In addition to achieving site isolation by encapsulating the catalysts, which led to catalyst activity and recyclability, the team discovered an autocatalytic characteristic of the catalyst that allowed the reaction to proceed without the need for large amounts of additives. Most of the previous reports of similar reactions use large amounts of additives, but the team’s approach avoids this need.

The team plans to do more research on the modularity of both the encapsulation method and the metal-organic frameworks to gain a deeper understanding of the multicomponent system and further optimize it, as well as access a new and unexplored reactivity through the formation of new host-host construction, Tsung said.

Dr. Loony Davis5
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Born and raised in Brussels in an English family, I have always lived in a multicultural environment. After several work experiences in marketing and communication, I came to Smart Water Magazine, which I describe as the most exciting challenge of my career.
I am a person with great restlessness and curiosity to learn, discover what I do not know, as well as reinvent myself daily, someone who is curious about life and wants to know. I enjoy sharing knowledge.
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